The Natural Perfume Path: Why I Started Making Fragrances

The Natural Perfume Path: Why I Started Making Fragrances

How Natural Perfumes Changed My Life

Have you ever felt like you’re just going through the motions? That was me in 2015, before I started making natural perfumes. It was a few years after I had returned from life-changing travels in South America. I felt trapped in a spirit-sucking job. How did I end up here? This was not what I envisioned for my life. 

I needed a change. Perhaps a creative outlet would help get my juices flowing again, help me to reconnect with my intuition…

Ever been mesmerized by someone’s scent? 

While working at this draining job and trying to figure out how to shift my life in another direction, I encountered someone whose scent was captivating. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wanted my own signature scent, something people would remember me by. I tried a few different commercial perfumes, but I found that they gave me headaches. I read about the synthetic ingredients used in many popular fragrances and decided to see if natural perfumes worked better for me. I had some essential oils on hand and began to experiment with combining them. I started with simple combinations- jasmine and sweet orange, vetiver and cinnamon. The results were promising and I found myself wanting to learn more about creating my own perfumes.

I made a New Year’s resolution to dedicate myself to a creative hobby and chose to pursue natural perfume making.

Natural perfume is deep!

At first, I honestly felt a little embarrassed about my obsession with finding the perfect scent. It seemed superficial, frivolous even, compared to the other substantial matters I cared about. But, everything changed when I stumbled upon “Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume” by Mandy Aftel

This book was a revelation, validating my interest in perfumery and opening my eyes to its depth and complexity. Perfumery, I learned, is simultaneously craft, science, poetry, and magic—a practice with roots that stretch back to the dawn of humanity. I devoured every page, soaking in the history, physiology, beauty, and alchemy of scent.

Intuition guides the way…

I began to construct perfumes. Intuition & experimentation formed the foundations of my early practice of natural perfumery. I applied the structures that I learned from “Essence and Alchemy”, and continued to research and study formal and informal sources. However, it was critical to me that I find and develop my own “voice” through this work. This included listening- to myself, to the plants, to the natural cycles around me. I found that my creative energy was strongest during Full Moons. I began to notice the nuanced scents of each season. I began to associate particular scents with particular energies. 

As I listened and wove scents together and transformed individual plant essences into complex compositions with their own archetypical essences, I found that I was also transformed.

Scent as medicine

For me, sharing Elspeth’s Airs perfumes isn’t just a business—it’s about the transformative power of plants and scent. It’s about reconnecting with our bodies, our senses, the earth, and our own inner wisdom and power. 

The first time that I wore one of my creations in public and witnessed what the scent stirred up in other people, I knew that my perfumes weren’t just for me. 

Since then, so many customers have told me how my perfumes make them feel, how the energies and intentions of the scents resonate with what they’re currently working on, how they help them to feel present and centered, how they use them to tap into the cycles of nature, and so much more.

Ready to embark on this fragrant journey with me? Shop our natural perfumes now or sign up for my newsletter to stay connected and be the first to know about new releases, behind-the-scenes peeks, and exclusive offers by signing up for my newsletter (below). Don’t miss out on the scent-sational adventures ahead!

Mardi Gras Balance

Mardi Gras Balance

I’m based in New Orleans, and at this time of year, Mardi Gras is in full swing. If you don’t live here, it’s hard to comprehend how much it takes over everything. Schools close, courts close. Carnival season begins January 6th, with the “Feast of the Epiphany”/ “King’s Day” and builds slowly to its final crescendo on Mardi Gras Day, “Fat Tuesday.” The date of Mardi Gras varies every year, as it’s dependent on the date of Easter. There are parades and balls and parties throughout the season, but the final five days are the most concentrated. These days are known by the major parades that happen, i.e., “Muses Thursday” and “Bacchus Sunday”. There are so many different types of experiences you can have during Mardi Gras- there is not just one version. It depends on which parades you attend, what part of town you watch them from, and so much more. Regardless of which experience you engage in, Mardi Gras Day has special, elusive feeling that is hard to describe but magical to experience.

Yes, Mardi Gras is magical. But real talk, it can also be exhausting. More than ever, I turn to my tools & practices to keep some kind of balance so that I can truly enjoy the moments I’m in.

This will be my 21st Mardi Gras. I’ve experienced so many versions of it. There are moments of pure bliss, where you feel connected to everything and everyone. And there’s stress. Pushing yourself beyond your limits. Stuff that comes up to be faced. I often end up feeling very emotionally raw and usually have some kind of breakdown before it’s over. There’s a sweet release available on the other side of that and all it of- the good & the bad- are opportunities for spiritual practice and growth, but as I grow older, my body no longer tolerates certain behaviors and I strive for more emotional stability. I’m grateful for the tools & practices I’ve learned along the way.

That’s why I put together my “Mardi Gras Essentials” bundle. It’s full of aromatherapy tools to help with emotional regulation and physical care during the height of the season.

My personal goal is to take care of myself so that I can be truly present in the moments I choose to engage in. I look at photos from Mardi Gras past (check out the video montage I put together here!) and I see the smiles and I remember the fun. I don’t get enough fun in my regular life these days so I relish this time outside of normal time. Balance helps me to enjoy it without burning out.

Here are some of the things I’m doing to keep balanced this Mardi Gras:

  • Being selective: Choose activities that I really love, skip the rest. It’s very easy to experience FOMO or try to do everything, but there are just more activity options than there is time. Plus, moving from one area of town to another can be challenging. This year, I identified the top things I want to do and I’m letting go of some others.
  • Building in rest periods. I can no longer go non-stop. If I go to a night parade, I’m making sure I can take the next morning off. If I spend all day at another parade, I’m not going out again that night.
  • Sleeping: Nor can I get by on too little sleep. I love my sleep. If I need help winding down after a wild night, I use my “Drift Away” Peaceful Sleep Spray, misting some on my pillow and face before bed.
  • Nourishing myself with food my body loves! There are so many treats available this time of year (king cake galore) and while I definitely indulge in them, I can’t do that for every meal. I try to make sure I’m still eating healthy food for most of my meals.
  • Food prep: To that end, I need to have easy-to-eat food already prepared so that I’m less tempted to eat stuff that will make my body feel bad. I also carry filling snacks with me while I’m out & about.
  • Tending to my body: I have chronic, mild-moderate back pain and I absolutely have to keep up with my exercises or I suffer. So even though the pace gets hectic during Mardi Gras, I’m stretching every day and getting my gym visits in a few days a week. I’m also using my Achy Massage Oil regularly.
  • Tending to my emotional & spiritual wellbeing: I’m keeping up with my daily practices of journaling in the morning and checking in with how I’m feeling. When stuff comes up, I’m processing it by naming the feeling and being honest about what underlies it. I’m making time for a least a few minutes of meditation before I start my day. I love using my meditation oil to ground and center during these practices, and then throughout the day as needed. My calming, uplifting, and invigorating inhalers are also handy to have while out & about for a dose of aromatherapy to come back into my body & the present moment.

Here are some of things I’m NOT doing:

  • Worrying about keeping my house clean! There will be glitter and exploded costume parts everywhere. I accept this. I’ll clean up when it’s over.
  • Costumes: This might be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t have the time & energy to make a costume for every single event. I feel like this trend has increased over the years since Hurricane Katrina but I won’t rant about that here 🙂 I’m picking one or two events to costume for and I’m keeping it much simpler than I have in the past. (Last year, I dressed as a literal tree and carried a gigantic structure on my shoulders all day. It was a blast but my back was very mad at me!)
  • Trying to keep up with all of my normal routines– self-care or otherwise. I’m focusing on the most basic, foundational ones (like what’s necessary to keep my body feeling good) and letting go of the rest. I release that guilt and know I’ll pick them back up on the other side of Carnival.
  • Non-Mardi Gras related work: As I mentioned, everything locally shuts down. If you’re not in the service industry, you likely have off work. I run my own business, so I could technically keep working everyday, but I set a deadline to finish what I can and I’ll get to the rest after Tuesday!

What do you do to stay balanced during Mardi Gras or other busy, high activity times? Is that something that’s important to you or do you just embrace the madness while it’s happening?

Air Element Energy & Perfume- Ways to Connect

Air Element Energy & Perfume- Ways to Connect

What is the Air whispering to you? What scents call you through the wind?

Working intentionally with the element of Air can help us to observe the unseen and notice its effects on the world around us. Like the scents that it carries, it bridges our inner world with the outer world through breath. We see & feel it by its effects- the breeze rustling the leaves, mist rising from the water, smoke carried from the fire. Air allows us to share space with all of life across distances. It touches everything; it spreads seeds; it moves with freedom. It can exist without form. We depend on Air for life. Like all of the elements, it has its destructive sides but these, too, can serve as a catalyst for change.

We can intentionally channel the energy of Air within us and around us, through focus and visualization, as well as through rituals, scents, plants, and symbols. Below are the qualities & correspondences associated with Air, Elspeth’s Airs most airy perfumes & some of my favorite ways to connect with this energy. What are some of yours?

The photos in this post are of my friend, Chad, embodying the element of Air for our Elemental Magic photoshoot in March. Read more about Chad below!

Chad’s makeup by Sabrina Blunt and photos by Trevor Mark.

 

Air Qualities & Correspondences

Nature: Thinking, observing, learning, wisdom        

Colors: Yellow, white, silver

Direction: East

Season: Spring

Sense: Smell

Astrological Signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius

Planets: Jupiter, Venus

Plants: Rosemary, yarrow, fennel, lavender, dill, cattails

Perfumes: Elspeth’s Airs Cypress Rose

Rituals to Connect with Air

*Take a walk outside and inhale as you go. What scents do you notice? Which call to you & do you know where they’re coming from? Get curious & follow your nose on a journey to find its source.

*Choose a scent that helps to invoke a feeling you want to experience. Sit in a quiet place & either apply it to your skin or diffuse it and take long, deep breaths. Tune in to the emotions that arise and how they feel in your body. (Elspeth’s Airs Meditation Oil is great for this!)

*Burn incense or diffuse your favorite oils & incense.

*Bring consciousness to your breath. As you inhale, imagine being filled with vitality and nourishment. As you exhale, you share your gifts with the world and release what’s ready to be transmuted. Feel into the reciprocity available in this exchange.

*Work with plants that have Air correspondences. Think: feathery leaves & veins, wispy formations, and plants with fragrant, diffusive scents. See the graphic for some ideas but there are lots more! If they’re edible, drink them as a tea; inhale their aroma; or just hang out & breathe with them!

*Engage in flowing movement, ideally in the open air.

*Notice how the wind moves across your skin, in the leaves, in the clouds.

*Speak your intentions and let the wind carry them.

 

Elspeth’s Airs Perfumes to Connect with Air Energy

Cypress Rose

Affirmation: I am sacred.

Key notes: Rose, frankincense, cypress & lemon

Intended to both ground and inspire, Cypress Rose forms a protective bubble in which to center and open up to what’s inside.

Frankincense keeps you rooted and safe, while Rose inspires your creativity and opens your heart. Cypress serves to cleanse and purify, while Lemon uplifts.

Bright, tart top notes bloom into a sweet, rosy heart that lingers throughout the day as a joyful, comforting reminder that you are safe and well.

 

 

About the Model

Chad is one of the most thoughtful & observant people I know, and he applies his observations to transforming the world around him. He spreads seeds that manifest his dreams & embodies both the gentle breeze and the righteous storm, when necessary.

Chad Morris is the owner of Endless Journey Collection, where he makes handmade bowties, jewelry, t-shirts & upcycled denim. His goal is to spread happiness and confidence with his creations. He is also the Medical Case Manager and Communications Specialist for Frontline Legal Services, where he helps to address HIV stigma and connect people to services. A New Orleans native, Chad got his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola University New Orleans.  Long committed to helping people on a better path to health, Chad worked for CVS pharmacy for 11 years until joining the Frontline team in 2018. 

Chad & I met at the library in college. In the early days of our friendship, we were out & about across town with a crew, but over time, Chad & I bonded over our shared love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, old Mariah Carey songs and witnessing & supporting each other through both hard and joyful times. We both started our creative businesses around the same time & have been market buddies and sounding boards since then. Chad moved to Atlanta last year & it was so wonderful to have him back in New Orleans for this magical photoshoot!

Take up space with Sambac Jasmine

Take up space with Sambac Jasmine

I’ve been growing a Sambac Jasmine plant for about 3 years and this is the first year it’s really poppin’ off. I use an absolute of its flowers in one of my perfumes and it’s been such a pleasure living next to this plant, learning what it likes & watching it flourish. Sambac Jasmine starts blooming heavily in May in my region (9b) and sends its sweet, floral fragrance far & wide. It feels sensual, relaxing & uplifting at the same time. Here are a few facts & observations about Jasminum sambac:

In my yard: The variety that I have is like a mix between a shrub and a vine. It loves to sprawl out and send its branches in many directions, though it doesn’t send out tendrils. The flowers on my plant are double-layered. The last time I repotted it, it had spread its roots out of the pot and down into the tiny amount of soil available in my otherwise concrete yard. From its limbs to its roots to its big, loud, delicious fragrance, Sambac Jasmine is not afraid to take up space. 

Plant names: Jasminum sambac, Sampaguita (Philipines), Melati Putih (Indonesia)

Elemental correspondences: Water + Earth

Family: Oleaceae (olive)

Native to: tropical Asia, from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. It’s the national flower of the Philippines and 1 of 3 national flowers of Indonesia. Widely cultivated in Southwest of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. Naturalized in many places, including Mauritius, Madagascar, the Maldives, Chiapas, Central America, southern Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.

Botany: Frost-tender evergreen vine or shrub; highly variable; ovate, simple leaves, either opposite or in whorls of 3. Blooms in clusters of 3-12. The flowers open at night and close in the morning. 

Lore/traditional uses: In the Philippines, Sampaguita garlands are used as a form of bestowing honor, veneration, or accolade. Jasminum sambac is the subject of the danza song La Flor de Manila, composed by Dolores Paterno in 1879. 

In Indonesian tradition, it has long been considered a sacred flower, as it symbolizes purity, sacredness, graceful simplicity and sincerity. It also represents the beauty of modesty; a small and simple white flower that can produce such sweet fragrance. The jasmine has wide spectrums in Indonesian traditions; it is the flower of life and beauty, yet it is also often associated with spirit and death.

Zones: 9-10

Scent profile: Sweet, creamy, floral, vanilla, fresh (like bath soap up close), lush, sweeter, more of a creamy floral from a distance, coumarin, indolic, lactonic; very diffusive (projects its scent far)

Energies & Aromatherapy: “Paradoxically strong yet serene, jasmine can settle and open the heart to self-love, compassion for others, and new experiences.” (from Aromatics International). Euphoric. 

Elspeth’s Airs perfumes: Fleurs et chocolat*

*Fleurs et chocolat has been out of stock for a long time because I’ve been unable to find one of the essences (Tiare.) I’m currently growing both Tiare and Sambac Jasmine and enfleuraging them to hopefully use in perfumes again! 

Water Element Energy & Perfume- Ways to Connect

Water Element Energy & Perfume- Ways to Connect

How do you connect with the element of Water? How can perfume guide & inspire you?

Intentionally working with the element of Water can help us to connect more deeply with our emotions, feel them and move them through our bodies. Water can help us tap into our natural intuition & creativity, cleanse energies that we’re ready to release, and to open up to play, ease and joy. Along with many other powerful ways, connecting to water through our sense of smell can help us to go deep and get intimate with Water.

We can intentionally channel the energy of Water within us and around us, through focus and visualization, as well as through rituals, scents, plants, and symbols. Below are the qualities & correspondences associated with Water, Elspeth’s Airs most watery perfumes & some of my favorite ways to connect with this energy. What are some of yours?

The photos in this post are of my friend, Shana, embodying the element of Water for our Elemental Magic photoshoot in March. Read more about Shana below!

Shana’s makeup by Sabrina Blunt and photos by Trevor Mark.

 

Water Qualities & Correspondences

Nature: Flowing, purifying, healing, soothing- realm of emotions, intuition, depth, nourishment        

Colors: Blue

Direction: West

Season: Autumn

Sense: Taste

Astrological Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Planets: Venus, Mars, Moon

Plants: Chamomile, lemon balm, orange blossom, gardenia, water lilies, roses

Perfumes: Elspeth’s Airs’ Picnic 

Rituals to Connect with Water

* Walk or sit by a body of natural water. Breathe in deeply and notice what smells stand out. What different qualities of scent do different bodies of water have? What other scents do you detect? Which ones seem intertwined with the place- i.e., the mix of still water + algae, the fresh ocean breeze + dry sand? Do you notice the “aura” of the water? What other ambient scents do you notice that create a fragrant snapshot of the place of the water at this moment in time? (I LOVE doing this & creating imaginary “perfumes of place”- i.e., the Bayou in the Spring with still water, wet earth after the rain, jasmine & maybe the smoke of BBQ!)

Where else do you notice the varied “scents of water” (i.e., air heavy with coming rain vs. the air right after a rain)?

* Choose a fragrance (maybe an Elspeth’s Airs perfume! Or an essential oil or fresh plant) that has correspondences to Water. Inhale it as you imagine the aspects of Water that you would like to connect with & set intentions or meditate. Revisit this scent each time you would like to remember those intentions & feel them within your body.

* Charge drinking water with energy & intentions: hold the water and speak or think your intentions then drink the water mindfully.

 

* Try using “color magic” and symbols to evoke energies you want to connect with. Wearing the color blue and adorning yourself, your altar or your space with objects like seashells is a great way to communicate with your subconscious about the Water connection that you are nurturing.

* Take a ritual bath with herbs. I love preparing a tea with the herbs first and then adding that to the bath water, and adding a few flowers or leaves directly to the bath for an added feeling of beauty (w easier clean up!)

* Swim or sit by natural bodies of water.

* Have a tea ceremony, perhaps with herbs that have water correspondences. Sip mindfully and tune in to how the tea tastes and how it feels in your body.

 

Elspeth’s Airs Perfumes to Connect with Water Energy

Picnic

Affirmation: I am naturally playful.

Key notes: Boronia, Tangerine, Sandalwood

Picnic plays with the fruity-floral notes of Boronia and imagines it resting on a blanket in a secret clearing with a bouquet of Neroli and a bowl of Tangerines. Ambrette seeds allude to sweet sweat from frolicking and a hint of Spearmint freshens it up after the romp through the woods.

Ripe, fruity and a little zesty, with a woodsy and slightly animalic base, this blend merges precious essences for a delightful foray into fantasy.

 

 

About the Model

Shana is a force of Nature. Like water, Shana has a gift for making big changes- transforming landscapes by consistent action over time. Emotionally brilliant with a strong intuition, this Cancer sun swims boldly into deep waters.

Shana Turner @shanaturner_writes is a writer, grassroots literary instructor & organizational facilitator. “Community Solstice” is where this work comes together. Born on the summer solstice, she is a working-class, queer femme of Irish and Jewish descent from Boston who lives in New Orleans. She has two decades of experience with justice organizing, infrastructure development, participatory planning, creative writing projects, and collective learning through a popular education praxis. Through her work, she seeks to treat wounds as sites for transformation, to complicate the false binary between victim and offender in intra-community conflict, assess equity and disparities of power within groups, interrogate the construction and perpetuation of whiteness, and engage rituals of ceremony in the ordinary moments of everyday life.

Shana & I have been friends for over 10 years, connecting over nuanced critiques of social dynamics, breaking bread & our shared love of being near & in water. We support each other through hard times, provide spaces to vent & process, act as thought partners in planning out our visions, and celebrate & cherish the moments of joy. And of course, go to the beach, the bayou or the river every chance we get!

Fire Energy & Perfume- Ways to Connect

Fire Energy & Perfume- Ways to Connect

How do you connect with the element of Fire? How can perfume provide a pathway?

Fire is the element of transformation and alchemy, cleansing and destruction. Its flames dance playfully and it stokes our inner desires and passions. It illuminates through the darkness and represents health, vitality and creativity. It can be our beacon, bringing warmth to our homes & hearths; it can also be dangerous when untended. Even in its destruction, Fire gives way to new life, nourishing the soil with ash and making room for new things to grow. Fire commands respect and attention. Fire energy in balance is a vital part of the natural cycles of life.

We can intentionally channel the energy of Fire within us and around us, through focus and visualization, as well as through rituals, scents, plants, and symbols. Below are the qualities & correspondences associated with Fire, Elspeth’s Airs most fire-invoking perfumes & some of my favorite ways to connect with this energy. What are some of yours?

The photos in this post are of my friend, Mandisa, embodying the element of Fire for our Elemental Magic photoshoot in March. Read more about the fiery Mandisa below!

Mandisa’s makeup by Sabrina Blunt and photos by Trevor Mark.

 

Fire Qualities & Correspondences

Nature: Transformation, play, action, desire, alchemy, cleansing, destruction        ginger and cinnamon to invoke Fire

Colors: Red & orange

Direction: South

Season: Summer

Sense: Sight

Astrological Signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Planets: Sun, Mars, Jupiter

Plants: Cinnamon, ginger, hot peppers, stinging, thorny plants like nettles, sunflowers, spices like nutmeg and clove

Perfumes: Elspeth’s Airs Through Flames & Eros

Rituals to Connect with Fire

*Use perfumes & scent to set intentions around what you wish to release or to invoke what you are passionate about creating or transforming. Connect with Fire through perfume, plants & rituals

*Burn candles, especially red or orange ones. You can also dress your candle with herbs & essential oils that correspond with fire.

*Write things you wish to release on paper and then burn it (safely, of course!)

*Gather around a fire.

*Make a sun tea: place herbs in a glass jar and cover with water & cap. Place outside where the water can strike it for 3 to 5 hours. Once at desired strength, drink or refrigerate. 

*Infuse flowers in water in the sun all day and then rinse your body with the water.

*Bask in the sun.

*Bake with fiery herbs & spices- a delight for the mouth & the nose!

*Use fiery scents or incense in your releasing & cleansing ceremonies.

 

Elspeth’s Airs Perfumes to Connect with Fire Energy

Through Flames

Through Flames perfume to connect with Fire

Affirmation: I already know the way.

Key notes: Lemongrass, clove, tobacco, woods & spices

Made under the influence of a Fire Moon, Through Flames incinerates confusion and brings clarity by fire. Built upon a solid base of Virginian Cedarwood, Opoponax and Vetiver, a stir of tobacco is used to ignite the fire. Siberian Fir and Rosemary stoke the flames and send Lemongrass into the air. Ginger adds heat, while Black Pepper jolts us awake & brings us into focus. A touch of Cardamom sweetens the blend just enough to balance the medicine. We are left feeling clear and strong.

 

Eros Eros perfume to connect with Fire

Affirmation: I am electric. Being with tension fuels my growth.

Key notes: Vetiver, citrus, cinnamon & ginger

“Eros is the unconsummated quality of the between.” – Catherine MacCoun, “On Becoming an Alchemist”

Cinnamon and Vetiver spark a playful tension between hot and cool in this blend. These two poles create an opening for Cypress and Lemongrass to arise to form a bridge between the contrasting elements. Magic occurs in this space of in-between.

Originally created under a Full Hunter Moon in Aries, Eros simultaneously pulls us in opposite directions and keeps us centered in that still place within. It implores us to be with certain tensions, as they can propel us towards growth.

 

About the Model Embodying Fire

Mandisa can’t help BUT radiate fire energy. With her Sun and Moon in Leo, born in the heat of August in the South, Mandisa is as fierce as she is passionate and loving. Her clear intentions, words & actions have the power to transform hearts & minds & all the world that she touches. 

S. Mandisa Moore O-Neal is a Black Feminist, abolitionist and founder of The Moore-O’Neal Law Group, LLC, a Black feminist law and policy practice. Currently, she’s the Executive Director of The Center for HIV Law and Policy, a research and policy think tank and advocacy resource for People Living with HIV and surrounding communities. Before joining CHLP, she was a civil rights attorney with a focus on HIV De-criminalization litigation, education and advocacy; family law litigation, education and advocacy; employment and public accommodations discrimination litigation and education; and police accountability litigation and advocacy and her primary organizing support work was as member of the BYP100-New Orleans’ chapter, SONG-New Orleans and a founding member of the Louisiana Coalition on Criminalization and Health.

Mandisa is also one of my besties. We’ve been friends since college, when we challenged the “devil’s advocate” bros in a Liberation Theology class and emotionally supported each other through Hurricane Katrina. Over about 18 years, our friendship has grown us both through many shifts and evolutions, and I’m proud and honored that we call each other family.

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